With a plethora of award winning credits to his name writer Richard Curtis returns to a film he wrote over thirty years ago. That film is ‘Bernard and the Genie’ that starred Alan Cumming as Bernard and Lenny Henry as the genie but in this reboot Cumming plays a sociopathic boss and Melissa McCarthy takes over the genie role. Relocating to New York the film now sees Bernard played by Paapa Essiedu, a employee of Cumming’s art auction house who deals the first of several bouts of bad luck when he brings in a client late in the day making Bernard in turn late for his daughter’s 8th birthday. The knock on effect is that his wife decides to take their daughter away to her parents for a trial separation. And in an effort to get his marriage back together he asks his boss for some time off who decides to fire him without any real reason.…and all of this in the run up to Christmas. It’s the worst bit of luck since Abraham Lincoln suggested to his wife that they have a night out at the theatre.
Cue Melissa McCarthy. As a 2000+ year old genie it would seem an ideal role to cast a more age appropriate Cher in the role who has the power to grant an unlimited number of wishes contrary to the rule of three. Disbelieving at first Bernard soon realized that she is the real deal after the usual fish out of water culture shock she has in modern day New York and together they set about try to reconcile with his wife in time for Christmas.
It’s a sprightly first act with McCarthy having some amusing moments but is far being on full capacity here to Essiedu’s straight man before the plot sees them both banged up in police custody because of their theft of the Mona Lisa. But the jokes are thin and by thin we mean really thin to the point that really the only real laugh out loud line is an unexpected one about Ricky Gervais. But despite its Christmas setting this really could be set at any time of the year and the pull at the heartstrings moment doesn’t really come out in the way that the ending of say, Love Actually’s Emma Thompson / Alan Rickman story does. Bernard and the Genie didn’t really need a reboot and Curtis at his best is a quite brilliant writer and this is a disappointingly bland Christmas offering.
related feature: Richard Curtis rom-com, ‘Yesterday’ reviewed
Here’s Richard Curtis talking about the film at a special screening…..
Director Sam Boyd chats to us about the film and takes us behind the scenes……..
Here’s the Genie trailer…….